top of page

Let's talk scholarship ROI (return on investment)

I was flabbergasted not long ago when a student I was working with told me some of her friends aren’t applying for smaller scholarships because they “can’t be bothered”.


The scholarships she was talking about were in a bundle (meaning you use one application to apply for several awards) and had a relatively simple application process (and therefore could be completed in a short amount of time) but some of her friends weren’t going to even fill out the application form.

She told me her friends said it wasn't worth it because the monetary values weren’t that big (they were in the $200-$1000 range), and they didn’t think they’d win anyway.

There are 2 reasons why this is ca-RAY-zy and needs to be addressed:

First, never just assume you won’t win. Based on this story, and others I've heard, there may be lots of people who are not bothering to apply, so your odds of winning are probably better than you think. If you’re eligible, apply.

Second, no scholarship is too small. Even $500 makes a difference. That’s $500 of FREE money you don’t have to pay, or don’t have to borrow and pay back with interest.

The ROI of TIME spent applying for a scholarship

Time is money, as they say. So, for the sake of argument, let’s look at your student’s time invested versus the potential return on their investment (ROI).

Smaller scholarships generally don’t have too onerous of an application. For example, they usually don’t require a long essay (but probably will require a short one), and usually there are no interviews. They probably require a transcript of grades, one or two references and a short list of activities. So, let’s say it takes your student 3 hours to find it, put it together, check it over and mail/email it to the organization.

Now let’s say they win the award, and it’s worth $1000. If they plan to work part-time to pay for school, how much time would it take to work a minimum wage job to earn $1000? Depending on your province, it’s probably around 90 hours.

So, they just saved themselves 90 hours working in a part-time job to pay $1000 in tuition. That’s 90 hours they can spend studying and hanging out with friends rather than working. They traded 3 hours for 90 hours -- that’s a 3000% return on investment!

To put it another way -- even if they were to spend 10 hours finding and applying for scholarships, and they won a $1000 one, they just earned $100/hour.

Again, not a bad return on investment!

The ROI of MONEY savings of scholarships

Money is money, as they say! So let’s look at it yet another—admittedly simplified—way.

Say your student will be getting a Canada student loan to pay for part of their post-secondary education.

Now let’s say they win $2000 in scholarship money. That’s $2000 less they must borrow, and even more than $2000 less they have to pay back (because they won’t be paying interest on that part of the amount borrowed).

Let’s use the Government of Canada Loan Repayment Estimator tool to figure out how much less they may pay in interest based on winning a $2000 scholarship.

To make it easy, let’s say your student borrows $10,000. They pay a fixed interest rate of 3% and have a payback period of 5 years.

They’ll repay $12,165.84, or $10,000 + $2165.84 in interest.

But if they win the $2000 scholarship, it means they only need to borrow $8000.

With the same rate and payback period as above, they’ll repay $9732.67, or $8000 + $1732 in interest.

That’s $433.17 less in interest than the $10,000 loan.

So now your $2000 scholarship is actually worth $2433.17.

Here’s the comparison:

Of course, not all rates and paybacks are like this example, but you get the general idea.

End result: Applying for scholarships can save you both time and money.

Of course, applying for scholarships doesn’t guarantee you’ll get one, but the chances of winning are there, especially if your student applies for several instead of just one.

So, isn’t it worth putting in a few hours to put together an application?

I hope you find this information useful!

Need help with scholarships? Contact me to discuss my services.

About the author

Janet MacDonald is a Scholarship Coach with mycampusGPS Education Consulting. She is a former Canadian university admissions officer. For seven years, she was the coordinator of a scholarship program at a major Canadian university. Janet has helped her student clients win hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships.

You can find her online at, and on LinkedIn.

Learn more about Janet MacDonald by visiting the About Page.

The Author
  • Facebook - White Circle
  • Twitter - White Circle
  • LinkedIn - White Circle
Featured Posts
Search By Tags
Recent Posts
bottom of page